Markey to Introduce Internet Video Captioning Bill Next Week

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., is planning to introduce legislation next week that would require broadcasters to provide closed captioning not just on television but on their Internet streams as well.

The “Twenty-first Century Communications and Accessibility Act of 2008” would require major producers of Internet video to include text captions of video, as well as audio descriptions, on their Web video. Markey has said he wants to ensure Americans with disabilities are not left behind as video consumption moves from broadcast and cable to the Internet.

An aide said Thursday that Markey planned to introduce the bill when the House goes back into session Tuesday.

Captioning Internet feeds—which are already processed from the various television formats—could bring new technical chores to broadcasters despite the numerous captioning products now available and in use. Markey’s panel held a hearing May 1.

And, telling some content producers what they can do on the Internet raises flags.

“While broadcaster have traditionally been subject to some regulation due to the ‘scarcity’ and ‘pervasiveness’ of the medium, the Internet has been classified by the United States Supreme Court as the perhaps the freest medium of expression in existence—deserving of even more First Amendment protection than even newspapers,” wrote Kevin Goldberg in CommLaw Blog, a service of the Washington law firm Fletcher, Heald and Hildreth. “It is hard to conceive of a regulation that mandates speech in this way surviving constitutional scrutiny.”